Monday, January 25th, 2021

Biometrics On Steroids — How The Police State Is Going To Use Your Tattoos Against You

Published on June 6, 2016 by   ·   No Comments


Claire Bernish

If you have tattoos, law enforcement might be trying to decipher their meaning — and use the information for identification purposes. But, as with any government program with seemingly innocuous roots, the Tattoo Recognition Technology Challenge (Tatt-C) has potential to trigger repercussions beyond a simple invasion of your privacy.

As privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation reported, in 2104 and 2015, the FBI partnered with the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST — yes, that NIST, responsible for the hotly contendedreport on the World Trade Center and 9/11) to ramp up tattoo identification technology.

Biometrics companies and other researchers received a giant database of prisoner tattoos and “were asked to run five experiments to show how well their algorithms could match tattoos under various circumstances,” EFFexplained.

Some tests involved matching different photos of the same person’s tattoo. Other experiments sought to match similar tattoos on different people based on their characteristics — such as a crucifix, Minnie Mouse, and Chinese calligraphy. These tests pose serious concerns for privacy, free expression, religious freedom, and the right of association.

While, in the past, tattoo identification has served such beneficial purposes as identifying murder victims and suspects or locating missing people, furthering the technology to include interpretation of tattoo symbols poses multiple inherent risks. That isn’t the only area for the technology to go horribly wrong, either.

As EFF pointed out, if someone refuses to produce ID or otherwise identify themselves to law enforcement, an officer could take a picture and using tattoo recognition, could be identified — pulling up the person’s prior arrest and other records. Though NIST offered the identification of a robbery suspect as an example of potential benefit the technology offers, anyone caught on camera, whether acting nefariously or not, could be subject to identification.

As with mass domestic surveillance, this creates a generalized ‘guilty before proven innocent’ atmosphere — and possibly another avenue to apply the DHS adage, ‘if you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.’ Those who value the natural human right to go about their business anonymously, however — which should encompass every human on the planet — will beg to differ.

Virtually every law enforcement agency in the U.S. now tracks our every move via cell phones, but facial recognition technology — and now tattoo identification tech — are making moot the need for a device to track people anywhere they go.

Three companies in the challenge reported 90 percent accuracy in their algorithms detecting tattoos. But MorphoTrak’s version detected a tattoo in an image with 96.3 percent accuracy — and could track the same tattoo through different images over time with a startling accuracy of 99.4 percent. But it only gets creepier from there.

MorphoTrak also managed to identify through matching, with 94.6 accuracy, tattoos where only a portion could be seen in a photo — where part was covered by clothing, or where the design had been embellished after the original picture.

Read More HERE

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